The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest judicial authority in the land. It was established around the time when the Constitution went into effect in 1789, and has since then been charged with determining the constitutionality of state laws and the decisions of lower courts. It is by far the most conservative institution of the Federal government, and has changed remarkably little for over two centuries. Here are some interesting facts about the institution and its history:
1: Supreme Court Police
The SCOTUS was based in the same building as the U.S. Congress, the Capitol, until 1935. Since then, the Court has moved to its current location, which is guarded with an independent small department known as the Supreme Court Police. Starting at 33 personnel, the SCOTUS Police now retains a force of around 190 officers. The starting salary for a new, inexperienced member of this force is around $67,000 as of 2022, roughly double the national average.
2: George Washington’s Court Nominations
As the First President of the Union, George Washington had the unique opportunity to appoint the entire retinue of the Court from scratch. In total, Washington appointed 11 Supreme Court Justices during his term. Equally odd is the fact that he appointed only 28 judges to the district courts, compared to 174 of Donald Trump (the 45th POTUS), for instance, due to the smaller size of the judiciary at that time. The average President appoints roughly 2.5 Justices, with only four Presidents not having appointed any: William Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.
3: Lifetime Appointment
Theoretically, a Supreme Court nomination is a lifelong job once approved. Despite this, the majority of SCOTUS justices have actually resigned or retired, with only 50 out of 112 serving justices dying in office.
4: The Ivy League Lobby
The current Supreme Court is the most well-educated in history. In fact, all the justices currently serving have attended either Harvard or Yale law school. While only 4 % of American adults have attended an Ivy League college today, the last nominee from the other 96 % was appointed way back in 1981, with all nominees since attending one of the eight most prestigious schools in the country.
5: Early Decisions on Gay Rights
State bans on same-sex marriage were declared unconstitutional all across the U.S. in 2015 after the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Before that, the Supreme Court has had a complicated history when it comes to gay rights, first ruling in favor of public expression of LGBT sexuality in 1958. However, it took more than 40 years for the Court to reverse an unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court decision barring gay rights derived from the 14th Amendment in 1971.